Well, with the holdup of other stories, I've been writing in this one a lot, so I decided to post it up. Pwease, pwease, pwease review! There's many more chapters, so with the reviews I'll post more! There was a prologue, but I decided to leave it out since it gave away too much of a few things . . .
Morning was always the best time for me. I would get out of bed before anyone else in the house, always with enough time for coffee with Rene. Even being the only motherly figure I had, she still retained a close friendship with me and all the rest of us who lived in the house. She was the only one kind enough to ever take in the likes of us for so long . . .
As usual, I was in the kitchen at seven watching Rene pour coffee into two mugs. Omar's charcoal drawings were still strewn all over the table from the night before, so I cleared a space for the two of us as I sat down. I didn't go to school like anyone else my age. Rene home-schooled us all, but it was hardly my focus for the day. I had other things to worry about, as well as work.
"How'd you sleep last night? That storm was awful," Rene said as she sat next to me, putting the mug on the table in front of me. "Awful-beautiful."
I sighed, warming my hands against the mug. "Not good. Storms always give me those headaches."
Rene nodded knowingly, tracing a circle in the air over her mug with one finger. I watched the coffee begin to spin in the mug, then slowly turn a little whiter with cream.
"You're too good," I said, looking down at my own black coffee. The best I could do was stir it, but I had to add the cream and sugar by hand.
"And you're getting better," Rene replied, standing to get the cream from the refrigerator. I felt so worthless sometimes, but she insisted I was learning quickly. With my coming of age ceremony approaching, I needed to get better at everything.
"Mm, these are lovely," Rene commented, looking at a few of Omar's drawings. Some were of the front lawn, others rough sketches of Alesana. He was one of the oldest left in the house, and apparently he was trying to work out a portfolio for college. I was a little hesitant about the idea, but Rene was all for it. She encouraged all of us to thrust ourselves into the world, despite our differences.
"Has he already applied?" I asked, referring to Omar as I sipped my coffee.
"I think he sent off one application already," Rene replied. She glanced up at me, smiling at my apprehensive look. "I think he'll be fine. Omar's grown up in the world more than you."
True. I'd gone from being a bratty four-year old living with my aunt, to being 'accidentally' left at the local grocery store. It was a miracle Rene ever found me, and I sometimes wonder if she had been watching, waiting until I was let go. Either way, I was grateful to have grown up under her roof.
"So what's in store for you today?" Rene asked after we sat in a few moments of silence. "Work?"
"Yeah, same old, same old," I said, sighing as I stood to wash my mug. I worked at the organic grocery store in town, and it wasn't exactly the best job. But I maintained it for my own money, so Rene didn't have to support my shopping habits, like fast food and oil paints.
"Tell Meryl I said hi, okay?" Rene said while I washed.
"I will." I put the clean mug on the rack and dried my hands. Meryl was a friend of Rene's, and my boss. She knew what we all were, but she never mentioned anything. She helped out as much as she could with offering cheaply priced food, and Rene helped her with natural remedies and such in exchange.
I left the kitchen and trudged back up the staircase to the second floor. Passing by everyone's closed door—except for Hank—I went to the second set of stairs leading to the shorter third floor. My room was the last of the three doors, tucked far to the right. It was a mess of clothes and my things, but I just picked through it all until I found something remotely clean to wear for the day.
I shook out the t-shirt I'd found, quickly stripping off my pajamas after I found a bra draped over the end of my bed frame. Meryl wasn't really one to care about how her employees dressed, but I still avoided anything covered with paint.
I glanced out the window as I searched for my shoes, noting that the sky was still covered with dark clouds. My headache from the night before had died out earlier, but I had a feeling it could come back any second; any sign of rain, and I was doomed. Rene said it might just be some unique side effect of turning 18 soon—I wasn't really sure. The fact that it came with severe weather didn't really make much sense to me.
Deciding I was ready, I left my room, closing the door silently behind me. Alesana slept in the room next to mine, and she wasn't one for being woken before ten. Dodging past all four of Hank's cats on the stairs, I made my way towards the door, not looking forward to the drive into town.
"Bye, Rene," I called, grabbing a light coat at the door.
"Bye, hon," she replied, poking her head around the corner of the kitchen wall. "Don't work too hard."
I just rolled my eyes and smiled. "Yeah, I won't."
The air outside was thick with moisture, going down smoothly into my lungs. Since I was working, it was my turn to use one of the five cars. Needless to say, none of them were really nice, or lavish. I took the ancient Beetle with the flaking, faded yellow paint. Inside it constantly smelled like mildew, so I kept the drivers window down as I started the engine. Looking up at the house, I noticed Omar's blinds were open as well as the window itself. He had probably just woken up, so I pulled out fast before he could notice. The Beetle was his favorite car to drive, and I knew he had work today, too. After my sleepless night, I wanted to avoid confrontation.
The dirt road was still wet from the night's rain. Potholes were now deep puddles harboring water skippers and lone tadpoles. The car wobbled along, forcing me to drive it slowly unless I wanted a reason to call Hunter for car trouble. It would take about ten minutes to get to the store, which meant I'd be at least five minutes late.
Coming up to the first stop light at the bottom of the hill, I adjusted the rearview mirror down to look at myself. Even in the extreme moisture, my hair was straight. There were still bits of bleached strands amongst all the deep red—red like those dark roses, says Rene—but it was otherwise boring. I ruffled my bangs a little and carefully brushed them to the side, getting honked at by the person behind me; the light had turned green.
The parking lot of Swamp's Market was already almost full. It was a small lot, but still, it meant there was a good amount of people inside. I parked at the first empty spot and hurried out, forgetting to lock the doors. I didn't see the huge puddle right outside the car door, so half of my left calf was soaked. Hopefully Meryl wouldn't notice; being late, I had no idea how she would react with so many customers.
The bells strung to the door jingled loudly as I ran in, glancing around for Meryl. She was in my place, standing behind the cash register. I took a deep breath as I carefully passed the customers, stepping behind the long wooden counter where the cashier usually stood.
"Hi—I'm sorry, I thought I was going to be on time," I mumbled, grabbing a crumpled apron from under the counter.
"It's okay, I've been enjoying myself," Meryl replied, smiling. "The people that come in here, they're fascinating." She laughed quietly, stepping aside as I tied the green apron around my waist.
"Is there anything I need to do in the back?" I asked, feeling a little calmer now that I knew she wasn't angry.
"No, Lisa's taking care of it. I didn't think she could handle it up here this morning." She rolled her eyes. "I swear, if you can't handle putting a vegetable in a paper bag, might as well stay in back."
I laughed a little, grateful she was my boss.
"How're you this morning? You look tired." She jostled my shoulder a little, trying to get me to look her in the eye.
"Tired—really tired. That storm kept me awake last night," I replied.
"It was great, I loved it," Meryl said, tossing her long, silvery hair over her shoulder. "Lightning like that just gives me the chills. And we haven't had storms like this in months. It's refreshing."
I nodded, not quite as thrilled to have the weather. It was even kind of cold, even for me in jeans. Meryl didn't seem to notice since she was wearing one of her beautiful sarongs and a waify shirt. I shivered a little, which she noticed.
"Want me to turn down the air? It shouldn't even be on today, it still looks like it might rain."
"Ugh, I hope not," I groaned, leaning against the counter. Meryl left the front of the store, going past the beaded curtain into the back. A few minutes later, the vent above me shuddered and went quiet, signaling the lack of cold air. I was relieved, and sat up straight as a customer approached with a basket full of their items.
The first of the morning rush went by fast. I rang up everything and bagged it myself, giving back change and smiling at everyone. Meryl brought me a ricotta-peach croissant after the worst of the crowd, and I gratefully wolfed it down as I crouched behind the counter.
At 11:30, the door jingled again and Omar walked in, smiling briefly before disappearing behind the shelves. He always came in for his lunch break, always assuming I'd give him lunch for free. Sometimes Meryl did, but she said she tried not to spoil him. He appeared at the counter a few minutes later with a sandwich and a small container of juice.
"Having a busy day?" he asked while I punched in the prices.
"Sort of, but it's not too bad," I replied. "How's work?"
"Slow." He worked at the library, a job I didn't think suited him very well. He was easy to pick out behind the books, a little taller than me with fully tattooed arms and a contagious smile. Apparently he liked the quiet and solitude of the library, so I wondered why he was even considering college in the first place.
"Have you really sent out an application?" I asked lowly, deliberately packaging his items slowly.
"Yeah, two of them, actually," he replied, fishing out a few crumpled dollars from his pocket.
"And you really want to go?"
Omar laughed, putting the change in front of me. "Yeah, I do. Who wants to stay here forever? Come on, admit it: you want to get out someday."
"Not now, not when I'm twenty," I mumbled. Omar would be going into school as one of the older freshmen. He'd procrastinated for a few years before deciding it was what he really wanted. Personally, I worried about how he would react to living in a big city, always being around people. It was more than likely that he would never find anyone like us, and that just sounded lonely to me. Maybe it was selfish of me to want him to stay; I'd known him the longest of anyone else in the house, besides Rene.
"You'll want it," he said, taking the bag from me. "Believe me."
"And you'll want to come home a week after being out there," I replied, giving him his change. "Believe me."
He laughed again and turned to leave, saying he'd see me later. I could bug him all day about why he shouldn't go to school; I'd miss him the most out of anyone in the house.
Meryl emerged from the back with Lisa in tow as a man approached the front with a bottle of cheap wine.
"Hey, Harold," Meryl said, striking up a conversation as I rang up the wine. I put the bottle on the opposite side of the register, preparing to put it in a bag when I hit it with my arm. It sent the bottle falling straight down towards the floor. I reached out to grab it, and on instinct, used my will against it. The bottle froze a few inches from the floor, hung in midair. I grit my teeth, knowing I wasn't supposed to do this in public. I relaxed my hand a little and the bottle fell against the floor, shattering and splattering red wine everywhere.
"I'm sorry, I'm too spastic," I apologized, looking up at Meryl. Judging by her look, she had seen what I tried to do. Though she knew what me and the others of our house could do, she knew we weren't supposed to do it in public.
"Lisa, will you get this?" she called absently, giving me another warning look. "I'll grab another bottle, Harold."
I apologized again, taking his money and quickly returning the change. Lisa rolled the mop and pail up next to me, avoiding my eyes as she scowled at the floor. I thought it was stupid that I couldn't use my ability for the little things. I could have saved Lisa the work, and saved us a bottle. I could have just said I caught it in time . . .
Outside, thunder rumbled ominously, and I felt a slight pang behind my eyes.
"Oh great, come on," I mumbled, trying to get a good look at the sky.
"What? I'm cleaning up your mess," Lisa snapped, glaring at me.
"Oh—no, I was talking to myself. I don't want it to rain," I replied, taking a slight step away from her. She scoffed and went back to mopping. I wasn't sure why she didn't like me. Maybe she wanted the cashier job—I don't know—I would have let her do it if she really wanted to.
Another clap of thunder sounded, and a car came screeching into the parking lot. Meryl was still talking to the man with the wine, and Lisa was just walking away, the mop water tinted purple. My head gave another throb of pain, and this time it didn't fade away. I pressed my fingers into my temple, hoping it wouldn't come on.
The car came to an abrupt halt just outside our door, and the thunder clapped again, this time bringing rain with it. I clenched my teeth as my head throbbed, and I felt nauseous. It was like the night before, just worse because I was standing up and in the light.
"People are just driving crazier and crazier these days," Meryl said as she watched the parked car outside the shop. "Hm. They must be checking the hours."
I just leaned against the counter, holding my head as the rain pounded against the roof. I grasped the counter with one hand, balancing myself. Things were tilting slightly, and I felt like I was about to vomit.
"Riley? Riley are you okay?"
I felt Meryl's hand on my shoulder, and I shook my head. "No—no, it's just like last night."
"Why don't you go home, sweetie. Can you drive okay?"
I barely nodded, reaching under the counter for my keys. I felt so sick, I didn't even remember to take off my apron. As I stumbled out the door past Lisa, I heard her mumble, "Faker."